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The Status Of Afro-Americans At The Turn Of The 20th Century - Essay Example

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At the turn of the twentieth century, despite equal rights as citizens, the Afro-American community ( 95 % of which was in the Southern States), faced a sharp economic and political divide. (Kelley & Lewis 347)…
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The Status Of Afro-Americans At The Turn Of The 20th Century
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Assignment Change in the status of Afro-Americans at the turn of the 20th Century At the turn of the twentieth century, despite equal rights as citizens, the Afro-American community ( 95 % of which was in the Southern States), faced a sharp economic and political divide. (Kelley & Lewis 347). As the sharecropping community of African American farmers were gradually pushed out by white farmers, a phenomenon of urban migration began to the cities of the North – New York, Philadelphia and Chicago (the Great Migration 1916-17). A new trend began in American society, that of racial segregation into ghettos. (Kelley & Lewis 356). Meanwhile as lynchings in the South continued well into the first few decades, racial violence spread into the cities too with organizations like the Ku Klux Klan infiltrating the northern cities.
The events and trends that signalled a change from the 1900s onwards was an increased impetus for community building for Afro-Americans : churches, businesses, schools, clubs and lodges (Kelley & Lewis 366). The Church in particular became an important part of Afro-American community life, and the focus for political activism and intellectual leadership that would proliferate over the coming decades. The other important phenomenon was the growth of the Afro-American womens club movement, as the ranks of the National Association of Colored women (NACW) grew to 100,000 by 1920 from only 5,000 in the late 1890s. (Kelley & Lewis 369). In the meantime, Afro-American business networks grew too in size and stature, as an important source of funding for future activism.
Afro-American society saw a sharp turn to socialist and unionist politics in the 1920s, as deeply "black" nationalistic radical politics began taking roots. (Kelley & Lewis 404). Harlem for instance was an important centre for Afro-American nationalism, and the first organisation to make a real impact was Marcus Garveys Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Spread across 36 states and a commercial success in its business ventures, including a steamship company, the Black Star Line, it set a positive example for racial pride and economic self-sufficiency. (Kelley & Lewis 407). It is still the largest African-American mass movement seen in the United States.
Education was another area where a change was visible after the turn of the twentieth century. Against the widespread prevalent notion that white children were somehow cleverer than Afro-American children there was a huge disparity in the allocation of tax payers money even for racially segregated schools. Education for the Afro-American community was deemed totally unnecessary in the Southern States as the white view was that Afro-American children were needed in the fields rather than classrooms. (Kelley & Lewis 376). However throughout the 1910 decade onwards, thousands of Afro-American public schools were constructed in the South utilizing community labour and funds from the Chicago philanthropist Julius Rosenwald (president of Sears, Roebuck and Company) amongst others. The school movement denoted a seismic shift in Afro-American community organization at the turn of the twentieth century, as it ushered in the large scale entrance of Afro-Americans into American middle-class life : as lawyers, teachers, doctors, social workers, publishers. (Kelley & Lewis 377). It ushered in an era of mass literacy and the rise of an exclusive Afro-American press and newspapers. It laid the foundations for political activism and the civil rights movement that would take the American nation through turmoil in the years to come.
Reference
To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans. Robin D. G. Kelley, Earl Lewis; Oxford University Press, (2000). Read More
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